Irish farmhouse apple pie: A nurturing dessert loved by all ages
Is there anything more homely than apple pie?
Vanessa Greenwood’s Irish farmhouse apple pie
Is there anything more homely than apple pie? It must be one of the most nurturing desserts, loved by adults and children alike. The aroma of a freshly baked apple pie takes me right back to my childhood.
I would be sent out into my grandfather’s garden and farm in Delgany, grumbling all the way, to collect the windfall apples. Windfalls don’t store well. The bruise which forms where they hit the ground quickly starts to go bad. They had to be used immediately, and my grandma’s deep dish apple pie was the perfect way to do it. I love everything about it: the wonderful smell, the rich golden buttery crust and the slightly tart apple filling.
I have a favourite Pyrex glass pie dish which I’ve been using for fruit pies for more years than I care to remember. It is deep enough to fit in a generous amount of apple and has a good sized lip round the edge. The deep lip helps with crimping the edges of the pastry, keeping the juicy filling safely inside. My grandma used a fork to crimp the edges, but a rustic thumbprint works just as well. Brushing the bottom edge of the pastry with egg wash before adding the top layer will help to seal the crimped edges together.
Different varieties of apple will give slightly different results. I’ve used Bramley apples here, which become soft and fluffy when cooked. Varieties such as Cox or Braeburn will keep their shape. You may want to use a mixture of the two, depending on what you have to hand.
IRISH FARMHOUSE APPLE PIE
For the apple filling:
4 or 5 Bramley cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
60g caster sugar
6 whole cloves
1 egg yolk, to glaze
125ml freshly whipped cream, to serve
For the pastry:
300g plain flour, sieved
150g chilled butter, diced small (plus extra for greasing)
60g caster sugar
1 egg or 2tbsp cold water
1 Preheat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent and place a baking sheet inside to heat up. Lightly grease a pie dish with a little butter.
2 To make the pastry by hand, place the flour into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar. Use a knife to work in the egg (or cold water), then bring together to form a dough (add a drop of water if required). Wrap the pastry up and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. (To make pastry in a food processor, blitz the flour, butter and sugar to fine breadcrumbs, then work in the egg to form a dough).
3 Divide the pastry into two balls of dough. On a lightly floured work surface roll out one piece of pastry into a circle and use it to line the buttered pie dish.
4 Fill the pie with half the sliced apples, dredge with half the sugar, then scatter with cloves. Repeat with the remaining apples and sugar.
5 Brush egg yolk over the rim of the pastry, before rolling out the second ball of dough into a circle and placing over the apple filling. Use a sharp knife to trim off any overhanging pastry around the edge of the dish. Imprint the outer edge of the dish with your thumb (or crimp using the tines of a fork).
6 Use up any extra pastry by rolling it out and cutting out leaves or other shapes to decorate the pie. Glaze the entire surface of the pastry with egg yolk (which gives a lovely golden colour). Dredge with a little extra sugar. Use the tip of the knife to slash a pair of 2cm cuts in the pastry to enable the steam to escape; this is important to avoid the pastry rising above the apples and creating a gap beneath the lid.
7 Place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes (reduce the oven temperature once the pie is golden in colour).
8 Serve hot with whipped cream.
Delicious additions to this pie include blackberries, cranberries, raspberries or sultanas.